Re: Numbers

From: Don Winterstein (
Date: Sun Mar 02 2003 - 06:14:14 EST

  • Next message: Iain Strachan \(asa\): "Re: Numbers"

    Iain Strachan wrote:
    > Hence Don's claim that the NT is known with better certainty than the OT
    > appears to be incorrect. I don't doubt that the variations are just
    > ones in spelling, that don't alter the meaning; but the exact letter
    > sequence needs to be correct for the gematria calculations to work. Hence
    > we tend only to work on texts where we can be reasonably certain that
    > are no variations. The OT text may be better preserved because the
    > regarded what they were doing as a sacred duty, and were intent on
    > preserving the exact copies. If variations were known, then they would be
    > carefully noted.

    The very paucity of Hebrew manuscripts, along with the major known
    discrepancies in existing manuscripts, makes knowing
    the original Hebrew text much more problematic than knowing the
    original Greek NT text. For the NT we have lots of manuscripts and so we
    can judge the kinds of variations that likely existed with a high level of
    confidence. By studying all the known variations we can make a good, informed
    guess about the original.

    If we had only two NT manuscripts, and the two had significant differences, we
    couldn't justifiably say that either was close to the original. Lacking
    independent evidence to the contrary, we'd have to assume the original would have
    come perhaps somewhere between the two.

    But this is like the situation we actually have with the OT: The very few
    existing manuscripts, including the Hebrew text from which we assume LXX
    came, have differences that are often appreciably more significant than most
    variations we see in the NT manuscripts. They do alter the meaning. Therefore, where there are differences, it would be risky to
    assume that any of the existing manuscripts is close to the original: The
    original may have lain somewhere between two that differ. Even if two are
    identical and a third differs, we can't assume that the two that are
    identical are closer to the original than the third. The samples are too

    (Can we assume that the very first sentence of a book would be less
    likely to suffer variation than later material? Unfortunately, a quick
    glance at the Greek NT indicates this assumption is probably not a good

    Here's a relevant quote from a lengthy old Encyclopaedia Britannica article:
    The Dead sea scrolls "...make clear the existence of several textual
    traditions even in Hebrew; they have therefore made important contributions
    to the textual criticism of the Old Testament, but they have not solved its
    fundamental problem. Barring a major discovery of manuscript materials,
    this problem is probably insoluble, and the best that can be achieved is an
    approximation of the text of the Old Testament."


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